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Every Windows user knows that you need to perform regular maintenance to keep your computer running smoothly. But what needs to be done has changed with recent versions, especially with Windows 10.
What should you do, and what are the big pitfalls to avoid? We’ll show you the biggest maintenance mistakes to avoid so you can streamline the process and get back to work.
1. Cleaning the Registry
One of the biggest Windows cleaning myths has pervaded through the decades and still deludes people today. Many PC cleaning pieces of software, late-night TV commercials, and other shady sources claim that you need to clean the Windows Registry. Hundreds of errors, they claim, are slowing down your PC’s performance. If you’d only pay $19.99 for their cleaning software, it would obliterate these errors and give you a brand-new machine.
You do not need to clean the Registry. It is true that, over time, unnecessary Registry entries will stick around due to uninstalling software and other actions. But these aren’t a detriment to your PC’s performance. You’ll never notice a difference even if you remove thousands of “problems.”
Even worse is that Registry cleaners can often cause more damage than good. Overzealous cleaners could delete important system files, which results in tedious fixes. If your PC speed isn’t what it should be, check out our guide to speeding up Windows for real.
Don’t fall for Registry cleaning, and certainly don’t pay for the snake oil software.
2. Not Taking Advantage of Automatic Cleaning
In the old days of Windows, you had to remember to run a lot of maintenance on your own, or resort to using the Task Scheduler. In Windows 10, many tools run on their own schedules so you don’t have to always check them. Specifically, you should make sure that Windows is automatically cleaning old files and defragmenting your drive (if you don’t use an SSD).
To run the Cleanup Tool on a schedule, open Settings and visit the System section. Select the Storage tab on the left and look for the Storage Sense header. Turn this slider On so that Windows automatically cleans up old files. You can click Change how we free up space to specify whether you’d like to clean temporary files and old Recycle Bin content. There’s also a Clean Now button you can use to get some instant extra space.
Disk defragmentation helps a hard disk drive (HDD) run at its best, but you shouldn’t perform it on solid-state drives (SSD). Windows knows which kind of drive is in your system and schedules automatic defragmentation accordingly, but it’s still worth checking.
Type defrag into the Start Menu to open the Defragment and Optimize Drives entry. Here you can see each drive in your PC and its status. Windows will “optimize” SSDs and automatically defragment HDDs. Make sure the Scheduled optimization header is On and you’re all set.
3. Neglecting Windows Updates
While it’s not cleaning, Windows Update falls under the maintenance category as well. In Windows 10, you can turn off updates temporarily but they still run on their own otherwise.
If you’re still using Windows 7 or Windows 8.1, you have more control over Windows Updates and can even completely disable them. But we don’t recommend that you do this. Without updates, your computer is more vulnerable.
1/2 Windows Update keeps your computers up to date with the latest features that why we don't recommend that you disable it. For
— Windows Support (@WindowsSupport) June 16, 2017
Feel free to manage Windows Update to make it work better for you, but please don’t disable or ignore updates. They keep your PC safe with the latest patches. Indeed, if PC owners had been more diligent with updates, the devastating ransomware attack in May wouldn’t have been as bad.
4. Failing to Back Up
If you use a computer, there’s simply no excuse for failing to make backups of your data.
Some people spout the old “I don’t have anything important” argument for why they don’t back up, but is that really true? Even if you don’t have important documents, sentimental pictures, or other irreplaceable files on your machine, what about the time spent to recover from data loss? Just setting up Windows the way you had it could take hours, and your time is valuable.
Thankfully, backing up your data isn’t much of a chore. And once you set up a solution, it becomes pretty set-and-forget. You can use the built-in backup tools in Windows or try a third-party solution. Both let you back up locally (to an external hard drive, for example) or over the internet so your data is safe from physical damage. Any amount you spend on a backup service will instantly pay for itself the moment you try to turn on your PC and find that it won’t boot.
The alternative is going through a lengthy process to recover data from your PC that won’t boot. And that only works if your hard drive is still functioning.
5. Running RAM Optimizers
Similar to Registry cleaners, many pieces of software claim to “optimize” your computer’s memory (RAM) so that programs don’t use up more than they should. Unsurprisingly, you should avoid these as well. We looked at CleanMem, a popular choice for this task, and found several issues with the developer’s methods.
He even stated that the software doesn’t speed up your computer and is a placebo.
Modern versions of Windows do a fine job of managing RAM on their own. You still might want to avoid RAM-hungry programs like Chrome if your computer doesn’t have a lot installed, but running an optimizer isn’t the solution. For actually fixing problems, check out the best free tools to fix Windows 10 issues.
6. Letting Everything Run at Startup
One of the biggest causes of a slow computer, especially at startup, is having too many programs running.
Most apps and programs “conveniently” set themselves to run every time you turn on your PC. This is great for essentials like your antivirus and clipboard manager, but you really don’t need Adobe Reader, Spotify, and Skype jumping up as soon as you boot. If you’re not using them, having them open is just wasting resources.
Thankfully, it’s easy to remove programs from running at startup. We’ve shown you everything you need to take charge of startup programs, and even recommended ten items you should remove to get started. Allowing everything to run at startup without pruning the list is a simple mistake that can lead to hampered performance.
7. Forgoing Physical Maintenance
Much of Windows-specific maintenance is software-based. But your computer can also run into physical problems that could impact your performance down the road. Be sure you’re not making big hardware maintenance mistakes, like restricting ventilation or allowing dust to build up.
Regular hardware maintenance will ensure your software continues to perform well.
Maintenance for the Wise
Committing these seven mistakes could cost your PC some of its lifespan or ruin your daily performance. Thankfully, they’re all easy to avoid. Avoiding slimy software, letting Windows run its automatic cleaning, and taking care of your PC’s hardware will go a long way. And when you do run into a problem, the best free maintenance tools will help you take care of it.
Did you just realize that you have more Windows cleaning to do than you thought? Check out a step-by-step guide to cleaning Windows 10.
What Windows maintenance mistakes have you observed? Have you done anything silly when trying to upkeep your PC? Tell us in the comments!
Image Credit: Stokkete via Shutterstock.com